Category Archives: Feng Youlan

Morality vs. Prudence in Confucianism?

Chapter 5 of my Sagehood book is concerned in various ways with the scope of ethics. On p. 92, I articulate some of my conclusions as follows:

…There is no morality-versus-prudence distinction. Instead, everything matters. The style and form with which one acts are important, though not in a way that can be detached from other aspects of the situations in which we find ourselves. There is, to be sure, a great emphasis on avoiding selfishness. But when everything matters, we are included: it is appropriate that we matter to ourselves, though we must be careful that we do not become so focused on our own immediate concerns that we view things in a skewed way.

In some recent discussions with colleagues, my claim that there is no morality-versus-prudence distinction (in either Neo-Confucianism or classical Confucianism, though the details and evidence will differ somewhat between the two cases) has met with some resistance. Continue reading →